Writing from Sydney, Australia, for The Independent, Kathy Marks ("Australia to ban logos on cigarette packets") explains that Australia is poised to introduce the world's harshest anti-smoking laws, with tobacco companies forced to sell cigarettes in plain packets resembling prescription drug packs. She goes on:
"The move, expected to be announced today by the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, will strip packets of all logos, colourful imagery and promotional text, which have been shown to reduce the effectiveness of health warnings. Only the brand name will appear, in a generic font, along with the government health warning.The IPKat recalls Chris Morcom QC writing a piece on this subject, which he hosted here. This piece attracted quite a few comments: the Kat wonders how thought has developed since Chris was writing back in June 2008.
The legislation, due to take effect from 2012, is intended to make cigarettes less appealing, particularly to young people, and to cut the number of smoking-related deaths. However, it is bitterly opposed by the tobacco industry, which has vowed to challenge it in the courts.
British American Tobacco, which controls 42 per cent of the A$8.3bn (£5bn) Australian market, told The Sydney Morning Herald it would "take every action necessary to protect ... its right to compete as a legitimate commercial business selling a legal product".
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended a move to plain packaging, a call echoed last year by the Australian government's Preventative Health Taskforce. The idea has also been seriously mooted in Britain, Canada and New Zealand. But until now governments have hesitated to act, fearing they might contravene international laws on free trade and intellectual property rights.
In Australia, a free-market think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, warned this week that forcing companies to remove their trademarks from products was equivalent to compulsorily acquiring property. It said that, under the Australian constitution, the government would be obliged to pay the industry A$3.4bn in compensation. ...
Clearly rattled, the tobacco giant Philip Morris has set up a website outlining alleged problems associated with plain packaging [the IPKat thinks it's this one] and claiming that the move will not reduce smoking.
George Williams, one of Australia's leading constitutional law experts, said he doubted that the tobacco companies would succeed in a legal challenge. "Prior High Court authority suggests they would see this as regulating the use of intellectual property ... [not] acquiring that intellectual property," he said ...".